Blah Part Three -- Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS)

I was going to let my latest experience with Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS) fall through the cracks and not even blog about it (not exactly proud of the fact that I contacted them, but more on that later), but the experience was, needless to say, downright comical.

First a little background about me.  For those of you who don't know, I worked for MS for a year in their Developer Support division (it was supposed to be a way to get my foot in the door...obviously, it didn't work out.  It actually didn't work out for anyone on my team as it was shipped overseas towards the end of our tenure, but that's another post).  This was a while back, and long after I started my path as a dev in the IT world; at the time, MS seemed like the holy grail (ha).  Needless to say, I know inside and out how the support process works at MS.  The position I worked was _not_ consumer was developer support, and the issues we handled ranged from installation issues with VS all the way to incredibly complicated COM/COM+/remoting/etc issues.  We basically supported anything that wasn't Windows (platform, not SDK)/Exchange/SMS/ISA, if it had anything to do with development (VS/SQL Server/Biztalk/all languages including XML), we took the case.  All in all, we supported over 300 different tools and products...we were a very busy group.  Oh, did I mention that all this was in addition to writing software for other groups as well?  To put it in perspective though, I would generally field between 10-15 cases a day.  The consumer folks take over 100 cases a day.  We were level 2, they are level 1.  We were allowed to do extensive troubleshooting and resolve issues, the consumer group simply sets cases up and routes you to wherever you need to go.  I could go on, but I digress... (and if anyone is interested in the intricacies of MS Product Support, I will be happy to devote some posts to it (just request it)'s actually quite fascinating at how good of a job MS does supporting their products, at least compared to other software companies)...and I've got some seriously hysterical stories from the experience, as does anyone who's ever worked in a support type role.

My machine was blue screening (see previous posts), so I immediately wanted to get MS in the loop as this is my heart and soul we're talking about here.  I didn't want to take any chances.  There are 2 ways you can set up a case with MS:  Web-based via email, or of course you can just call in.  With the release of SP2, hold times are a little long, plus I just don't like dealing with level 1 support people on the phone, especially coming from my background as I know the level of people I would be dealing with (they basically read scripts and have little to no technical skills whatsoever...the complete opposite of the group I was in).  So, I set up a web case, complete with all the stop error codes I was getting.  No sooner had I clicked the “send” button (and paid the 35 dollar charge), I realized that I could probably fix this myself...yeah, I simply jumped the gun, rookie mistake.  Of course after googling the stop codes, I realized it was hardware related (in this case, RAM).  I resolved my own issue, and from my experience at MS, I know this is reason enough for them to refund your money.  So, the next day I get an email from the support professional (they used to be called support engineers, but the term “engineer” got them in trouble in some states as this implies...well, some sort of engineering...which the consumer level support pros are far from.  The dev support pros are much more in line with engineers, but again, that's another post), and his first troubleshooting step is to do a system restore.  What?  How is a system restore going to resolve a hardware issue?  It was quite obvious this guy was (once again), reading from a script.  If he had googled (which he wouldn't have, MS has an extensive internal knowledge base with literally millions of previous cases in it) _any_ of the stop codes, he would have immediately realized that it was hardware related and had nothing to do with drivers.  If it had been driver related, sure...a system restore could have helped.  But not in my case as I disabled SR eons ago.  Regardless, I was pretty unimpressed, especially as I had mentioned in my email to him that I hadn't done any updates in months.  The good news is that my issue was resolved, so this was irrelevant.  I emailed him back at the address listed on his email to me requesting the refund...and it bounced!  Wtf???  Side note:  all of the consumer level support at Microsoft is outsourced.  I don't mean they use contractors, I mean outsourced as it's a completely seperate vendor that isn't related to MS other than they are hired for consumer support.  In this case (and I know this because I worked for MS in the office here in Charlotte), all of their windows support web based cases are handled by a vendor in China...they don't get their own email addresses, so of course it's going to bounce.  You have to use the web based tool they provide to communicate with PSS.  Not intuitive, but no worries.  The support pro emails me back authorizing the refund, but...and get this...I have to call a CSR (consumer support representative) and have them do the refund for me.  what what what?   The whole point of setting up a web based case is to avoid having to speak to the peon's.  _sigh_.  So, I called the number provided...and after being disconnected twice (it would route me to the right number after asking me some questions, none of which had anything to do with getting a refund...then a voice would tell me the number I was being routed to was disconnected...lmfao), and almost 2 hours later, I finally got someone on the phone.  I gave her the case number and explained that I needed a refund.  She told me to wait while she read through the case (and it was spelled out pretty clearly by the support pro that the issue was resolved and to issue me a refund), her next question was “are you still experiencing the issue”...triple wtf with a backflip!  Unreal dude...just read the friggin' case notes.  We finally came to the understanding that all I needed was a refund (took some prodding from my end)...and she then asks “why do you want a refund”?  Omg...DUDE, JUST READ THE FARKING CASE NOTES!  This is why I didn't want to call MS in the first place, dealing with these people is like blasting country music in the ghetto waving a confederate flag out the window of your car...generally not a good idea and liable to end up pretty badly.  2 1/2 hours later, I had my refund.

My point is this:  people are inherently lazy.  I know the support pro could have given me the refund himself...or he could have at least gotten in touch with the group that could make this happen.  He could have done it quite easily and saved me from wasting my Sunday afternoon dealing with the peons (and conversely having to post about the experience here...another 30 minutes of typing).  And the person I got on the phone just simply refused to read the case notes, thus driving me absolutely crazy with having to explain myself again, and again, and again.  I will _never_ use Consumer Product Support again.  Developer Support is a completely different animal to deal with...always pleasant as the people in these groups usually have a vested interest in what they are doing for a living, not to mention highly technical, competent people.  We would go leaps and bounds beyond what the customer needed.  I would love to see this type of mentality carried over into other areas of MS PSS.  Oh, and as an aside to the whole “people are inherently lazy” thing...obviously, I am a victim of this as well as my first instinct was to hand the issue off to MS.  Within an hour of troubleshooting the issue myself, I had remedied it...the victim of my own laziness :-).  cheers.

[update]:  I just re-read this post and realized that their are a ton of grammatical errors.  Ya know what?  I'm too lazy to fix them guys can figure it out :-).


# Bob said:

Please dont bring back my nightmares...

Tuesday, August 24, 2004 8:32 AM